How to Make Your Next Meeting the Most Effective Ever

Multi ethnic business team at a meeting. Interacting. Focus on w

Do I Have To Go?

In every corporation and social enterprise, we find ourselves in meetings.  We dread going to them.  We love to complain about them.  We poke ourselves to stay awake in them.

Have you ever thought about how important meetings really are?

Ever consider that how you behave in a meeting may have more of an impact on your career?

What if there was a way to turn meetings into “remarkable conversations”?

 

Paul Axtell’s new book,  Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, was a surprise.  Why a surprise?  Because I admit I have groaned about too many meetings, so the thought of reading a book about them was supposed to be my cure for insomnia.  Instead, I found myself reading and re-reading it.  If your calendar has you stuck in too many ineffective meetings, you will find numerous solutions to changing the game in Paul’s new book.

Paul Axtell has been a personal effectiveness consultant and corporate trainer for 35 years.  All of that experience is put too good use in a book packed with advice to be more effective.  Note: this book goes far, far beyond the meeting.

 

“It took me fifteen years to make it look easy.” –Fred Astaire

 

Meetings Matter

Everyone loves to complain about meetings. Too many, too long, too boring. But your new book says meetings matter. Why are meetings such an easy target?

Meetings Matter CoverFirst, the complaints are usually justified.  Our time in ineffective meetings far outweighs our time in powerful meetings.  People are genuinely concerned about being more productive and taking less work home, so time not well spent is galling.  Finally, no one is standing up for the value and leverage that meetings can provide to a project or organization.  We’ve drifted into this place where we complain and don’t even hear ourselves complaining.  Poorly run meetings also start at the top, and from below it can seem like an impossible problem to confront. 

Paul, you raise the stakes to say, “Meetings are at the heart of an effective organization.”

Yes, if we include one-on-ones, meetings compromise most of a supervisor’s or manager’s day.  Meetings are a place and situation where clarity can be achieved, decisions made, alignment garnered and actions identified – all of which work to help forward the work of any organization.  Therefore, meeting skills are a core competency for employees.

 

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” –Seneca

 

Choose Your Perspective

Your new book outlines eight strategies for more effective meetings.  Let me ask about just a few.  Number one “Choose the perspective.”  It’s about being intentional, mindful, and catching yourself if you fall into negativity about a meeting.  Why is perspective the starting point?

I believe two things change behavior: perspective and awareness.  Perspective might be the more important of the two because with a disempowering perspective, strategies and tactics have less impact.  We’ve drifted into three perspectives that set us up for failure—meetings don’t matter, it’s not my meeting, and I don’t have to fully engage if I don’t want to.  Very difficult to run a good meeting when people walk in with these points of view.  Just imagine how it would be to lead a meeting where everyone walked in with an attitude that was shaped instead by these perspectives: meetings are leverage and I’m responsible for making this meeting turn out?

 

“It is indispensable to have a habit of observation and reflection.” –Abraham Lincoln

 

The 4 C’s of An Effective Conversation

15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

Perspective Arrows Leadership Concept

Conscious Leadership

Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp have just released The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.  It’s a practical leadership guide designed to help leaders become more conscious, take personal responsibility, and lead others in a win-win model.

If you need to pause, reflect more, and change your leadership style or behavior, this book will jumpstart your thinking.

 

Are You Above or Below the Line?

Personal responsibility and personal accountability are vitally important to success in any endeavor. You start the book with a simple but powerful model: Above the Line / Below the Line. Would you share that model with us?

The model is a simple black line.  At any moment a leader is either above the line or below the line.   When we are above the line, we are open, curious and committed to learning. When we’re below the line, we’re closed, defensive and committed to being right. What we suggest is that the first fundamental building block of conscious leadership is the ability to accurately locate yourself at any moment, asking, “Am I above or below the line?”

This sounds rather simple, but it actually requires a high degree of self-awareness.  Many leaders spend most of their time below the line.  In fact, it is the normal state.  Asking them if they’re below the line would be like asking a fish if it’s wet.  When leaders begin the journey to conscious leadership, they develop a greater and greater capacity to locate themselves accurately in any given moment.

 

“You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” -Stephen Richards

 

Many leaders spend most of their time below the line because we go there when we are threatened or when we are in a fight or flight reactivity and the goal is survival.  Our brains are hardwired to do this.  This is normal.  It is human.  The issue is that this reactive pattern occurs whether the threat is real or perceived, and when the perceived threat is to the survival of the ego, we go below the line to protect it.  Many ego-driven leaders experience a fairly constant threat to their ego.  Thus they live and lead from below the line.

When leaders are below the line, they are in a low-learning state and create cultures of fear and threat. This results in lower creativity, innovation, collaboration and connection. When they’re above the line, they are in a state of trust, and the result is a higher level of effectiveness.

So the first key of conscious leaders is to accurately locate themselves either above or below the line. If they’re below the line, the second key to conscious leadership is to shift back above the line. Leaders master reliable shift moves that take them back above the line.

 

“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.” -Brian Tracy

 

The Dangers of Right

I have also written about the dangers of always being “right.” Why do so many of us have a strong desire to be right at all costs?

The reason we are so committed to being right at all costs and to proving that we are right is that the ego doesn’t believe it can survive unless it is right. Being wrong is ego death. Being right, and more importantly being seen as being right, becomes our highest goal.

What we see is that conscious leaders become more interested in learning than in proving to everyone, including themselves, that they are right. The more secure leaders are, the less they need to spend time explaining, justifying, defending and proving their rightness and the more time they spend learning through deep listening, curiosity and wonder. As leaders learn to lead more from curiosity and wonder, they discover that breakthrough ideas come their way regularly. Also, the more leaders get deeply interested in learning over being right, the more their teams and organizations do the same.

 

“Conscious leaders are more interested in learning than proving they are right.”

 

The Drama Triangle

Would you share the “victim-villain-hero” triangle?

When we’re below the line, we’re in drama.  All drama is driven by three roles: the victim, villain and hero.

VICTIM

When I’m a victim, I’m living as though I’m “the effect of” people, circumstances and conditions.  I locate the cause of my experience as something or someone outside of me. I’m upset because a supplier didn’t deliver or the markets are down or there is bad traffic. It could also be that I’m happy, but the cause of my happiness is the circumstances outside of me. Victims never take full responsibility for their lives.

VILLAIN

Villains blame. They blame others, the collective and themselves. They move through life finding fault.  Villains believe something is wrong and their goal is to figure out who caused it.

The Top 14 Posts of 2014

2015 On Athletics All Weather Running Track

Leadership Insights

Every year, people ask me to recap the year’s most popular posts. It’s always a challenge to develop a list. For this list, I am including only some of my original posts. I will separately share the interview list.

Unpredictable Results

Talk to any blogger and you will likely hear the same thing.  It is always a surprise to see what becomes popular.  I may work like crazy on something for hours, post it and it may see very little traffic.  Something else ends up taking off and it was almost a last minute thought.  You just can’t predict.

In putting together a list of popular posts, there are also so many ways to look at the data.  Do you measure purely by the traffic?  If you do it that way, doesn’t that give an unfair advantage to content posted in January?

After looking at the statistics, I decided to pick the top posts by traffic with a weight based on the date.  If a post was dated later in the year, it received a slightly higher weight to equal things out.

 

The 14 Top Original Posts

In reverse chronological order, here are the top 14 original posts of 2014:

Dec 22, 2014: 50 Things to Drop Before the New Year

“To design your future effectively, you must let go of your past.” –Charles Givens

 

Nov 25, 2014: How to Live a Life of Thankfulness

“A spirit of thankfulness attracts others to your cause, ideas and goals.” -Skip Prichard

 

Nov 17, 2014: Assume the Positive

“See the best in people and watch how they fight to prove you right.” -Skip Prichard

 

Sep 29, 2014: Why Standing Out is More Important than Ever

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” –Dr. Suess

 

Sep 25, 2014: 11 Leadership Qualities of Nelson Mandela

I am not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying. –Mandela

 

Aug 18, 2014: Leading With Others in Mind

“Servant leaders give more in value than they receive.” -Skip Prichard

 

Jul 28, 2014: 4 Ways to Get Appreciated at Work

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”  -William James

 

Jun 11, 2014: Leading with No

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” -Tony Blair

 

May 10, 2014: 9 Leadership Lessons from Mom

Leaders create results by letting others shine. -Skip Prichard

 

Apr 24, 2014: The 3 Most Limiting Words

Only you have the power to determine whether your future mimics your past. -Skip Prichard

 

Apr 19, 2014: 7 Characteristics Leaders Share With Peeps

“Leaders use failure as a fuel to propel future success.” -Skip Prichard

 

Apr 16, 2014: Selling to the C-Suite

“Timid salesmen have skinny kids.” –Zig Ziglar

 

Mar 12, 2014: The Price of Right

The joy of being right is short-lived. The joy of peace lasts a lifetime. -Skip Prichard

 

Feb 12, 2014: The Outs and Ins of Employee Loyalty

“You give loyalty, you’ll get it back.” -Tommy Lasorda

 

And the most popular guest post of the year is from March and was written by the very talented Thai Nguyen:

Contentment is the enemy of improvement. -Thai Nguyen

 

My mission for this blog remains the same:  to have a place to rant about whatever I want!  (Ahem!  Let me try that again.)  It’s all about leadership insights, ideas, and information that will make us all better leaders.  Whether through more productive meetings, healthier living, better use of social media and technology, deeper friendships or strategic vision and execution, I hope you find it a useful resource. I’d love to hear your ideas for future posts or the direction for Leadership Insights.

Thank You

I especially want to thank you for reading and a special thanks for those who have taken the time to comment and share these posts. For years, I would read blogs and never comment. When I started to participate, it was amazing how different of an experience it was. I began to develop relationships and get to know people on a deeper level. Try it – consistent sharing and commenting will likely help others as you share your own experience.

I wish you a happy and successful 2015!

Leaders Open Doors

Silhouette of businesswoman with briefcase standing in doorway

An Approach to Lift People, Profit and Performance

“I got to open doors for people!”

When Bill Treasurer heard his five-year-old son say those words, he immediately recognized this as valuable leadership advice. With decades of consulting experience, Bill wrote Leaders Open Doors: A Radically Simple Leadership Approach to Lift People, Profits, and Performance as a new approach to leadership. Bill Treasurer is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting. He has led corporate workshops for clients ranging from Saks Fifth Avenue to NASA.

 

“Leadership is about momentum and results.” -Bill Treasurer

 

I wanted Bill to share his approach to leadership and how Leaders Open Doors.  Bill is also careful to explain that leaders open doors, but that does not mean they have always-open door policies:

 

“Allowing yourself to be continuously interrupted is a recipe for lousy leadership.” -Bill Treasurer

 

Open Door Leaders Make People Uncomfortable

What’s most important about leadership?

The focus of leadership should not be the leader. The focus should be on what the leader is doing to create opportunities for those he or she is leading. Ultimately, followers reap the rewards of effective leadership.

I call leaders who focus on creating opportunities for those they serve Open-door Leaders.

 

“Vulnerability is critical to leadership because it mitigates the leader’s ego.” -Bill Treasurer

 

Explain why you say that a leader’s job is to make people uncomfortable.

FINAL 2 (1)People and organizations grow, progress, and evolve by taking on challenges, which are, by definition, uncomfortable things. An Open-door Leader’s job is to nudge people into their discomfort zones.

The trick is nudging people far enough outside their comfort zones that they become motivated to pursue a higher standard of performance, but not so far outside their comfort zones that they get paralyzed with fear.

To be clear, making people uncomfortable does not equate with stoking their fears. There’s nothing more childish than intimidating leadership. Fear is cheap leadership – it takes no effort or thought. Open-door Leaders, conversely, make people feel safe enough that they want to pursue uncomfortable challenges. By creating safety, the leader helps people become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, the CEO of IBM, said it best: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

 

“Growth and comfort do not coexist.” -Ginny Rometty

 

Restoring Confidence

How does a leader restore confidence in someone who is discouraged?

Three ways:

  1. Sharing stories of his or her own hardships and struggles. When leaders share stories about their own imperfections, failures, or mistakes with us, we judge ourselves less harshly.
  2. Believing in us more than we believe in ourselves. Leaders have to constantly remind us of our potential so we can see momentary missteps in a larger context.
  3. Give people another shot. Consider, for example, when you were learning how to ride a bike. What did your parents make you do whenever you fell? Get back up and try again. They didn’t stop believing in you just because you fell. They viewed the setback as part of the learning process. Likewise, after a career setback or failure, the leader should help us draw out corrective lessons, and then have us re-attempt the thing that set us back.

 

“Leaders open doors.” -Bill Treasurer

 

How do leaders shift perspective in others?

3 Essential Keys to Navigate Your Political Force Field

Challenge

This is a guest post by Joe Scherrer, author of The Leadership Forge: 50 Fire-Tested Insights to Solve Your Toughest Problems, Care for Your People, and Get Great Results. Joe is the President of The Leadership Crucible and a decorated Air Force veteran. His 24 year career included command of five units.

The Importance of Playing Politics

Ever heard comments like these?

“That decision was all about politics.”

“So-and-so is a real politician.”

 

Or, consider your answers to these questions:

How has politics impacted your ability to lead?

How would you assess your political skills?

Here’s the point: Even if you find “playing politics” distasteful, as a leader you’re a part of your organization’s political environment whether you like it or not. That’s because any time a group of smart, ambitious, type-A, competitive, achievement-oriented people gets together, there will be conflict of various kinds.

 

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” -Plato

 

In your leadership role, you will experience disagreements, deals gone sour, questionable ethics, undermining, jockeying for position, currying of favor, backbiting, and all of the unsavory things that arise when the stakes are high, resources are scarce, power is to be gained or lost, and reputations are on the line.

In short, this is politics.

The reality is that if you if you want to get things done, you need to learn to play the game well.

 

“If you want to get things done, you need to learn the game of politics.” -Joe Scherrer

 

Simply stated, your political force field consists of the dynamic interaction of leaders, each of whom seeks to:

  1. use and increase their power in order to
  2. advance and achieve their agendas and to
  3. protect and satisfy their self-interest.

As a result your political force field fluctuates constantly as power is gained or lost, agendas succeed or fail, and self-interest is fulfilled or frustrated.

Let’s look at what it takes for you to maneuver successfully within your political force field.

 

3 Essential Keys for Successful Navigation

Of course, the ideal policy would be to act altruistically in the service of the organization with the expectation that those around you will do the same.  However, since the real world falls short of the ideal, you must adopt other methods to navigate successfully through the human minefield that is the politics of leadership.

Key #1: Maintain Your Integrity.

Know what you believe in and remain grounded in your values.  Although you’re playing in the arena of high-level professional politics, it’s neither necessary nor advisable to sacrifice your integrity to do your job.

Key #2: Realize You’re Not Above the Politics.

Since you’re part of the system, the way you handle yourself and deal with situations will cause the political force field around you to flux and change.

Key #3: Be Aware of the Politics.

Part of your problem-solving calculus and decision-making process must include an assessment of your political force field.  Leaders who fail to account for the political situation wonder why their solutions don’t fly and their decisions fail.

 

“Integrity has no need of rules.” -Albert Camus

5 Vital Steps for Successful Navigation

Completing these five straightforward steps will allow you to map out your political force field, remain aware of your status within it, and take action to navigate it with confidence.

Step 1.  Identify the key actors who make up the political situation in which you find yourself.  List all the people who control, influence, or otherwise affect your ability to produce results and achieve your goals.